5 Elements of Successful Online Team Collaboration

One of the most common “big” reasons our customers use Noodle, is because they want to have or improve online team collaboration.

While technology is certainly necessary, it is only a small part of what makes for successful online collaboration.

For example, this paper from the University of Texas identifies five essential components of online collaboration.

It’s easy to get lost in all that detail and in the end we would still not have success at collaborating in a virtual platform such as the intranet.

This is probably because, as the papers I linked to suggest, technology is only a small part of the equation. Setting up an intranet with collaboration tools will not make collaboration happen automagically.

What does?

There are no magic beans, but if I were to pick just the most essential ingredients, I would pick these.

5 Things You Need for Successful Online Collaboration

1. A shared goal

Having a goal isn’t enough; it must be a shared goal. Every member of the team must recognize the goal’s importance and be committed to achieving it. Every team member must have something at stake, as well as something “in it for them” — something to lose if the goal is not achieved, something to gain if it is.

This the big “reason why,” which will fuel the collaboration and help the team persevere even when the going gets rough.

2. A skilled facilitator

Just as any group needs a facilitator for it to perform well, a group collaboration effort needs a good facilitator as well. He or she will be able to clarify expectations, draw out the strengths from each group member, dissipate conflict, facilitate discussions, and keep things moving as smoothly as possible. The facilitator also keeps everybody accountable to the group and the goal. Leadership is crucial.

3. A coherent team

Successful collaboration can only take place among people who are already a team to begin with. They must know each other, at the very least, and enough to trust each other and want to help each other out (More on trust in item #4). Having a coherent team also presupposes that team members already have good communication, negotiation, and conflict-management skills. These skills are particularly important in an online collaboration platform, where communication takes place without the aid of non-verbal cues.

4. Trust

This is part of #3, but it’s so important I think it merits being listed on its own. Without trust, group members will not contribute their ideas, seek help, or ask questions. They will not want to see each other succeed.

5. A platform that makes it all happen

Finally, online collaboration needs technology. Because team members are not physically present to each other, they need an environment to communicate virtually, capture ideas and outputs, and keep track of progress. An intranet is an example of this platform.

In a future post, I will talk more about which intranet features support online team collaboration.

Until then, did I miss other crucial elements of online collaboration? If so, which ones?

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